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Happy Festivus, for the rest of us

In the tradition of Festivus, Canada’s consumers have grievances to air, mainly about disappointing government officials

With a different kind of holiday this year, we are all making alternative plans for our annual celebrations. Zoom calls and socially distant visits will be the norm. That said, a pandemic is no match for the seasonal celebration of my choice, Festivus. Festivus was invented in the 1960s by the father of Dan O’Keefe, a writer for the hit 1990s comedy show Seinfeld, and became an O’Keefe family tradition. In a Seinfeld episode of December 1997, the show’s chief curmudgeon, Frank Costanza, father of George, introduced the holiday to the world. (Frank Costanza was played by Jerry Stiller, who died in May, age 92.)

Celebrated every December 23rd by those who do observe, this strange holiday usually involves an unadorned aluminum pole (to emphasize its origins in anti-commercialism), a family dinner, feats of strength and the ever-important “Airing of Grievances,” in which, after Festivus dinner, each member of the family explains how all the others have disappointed them over the past year.

A countrywide Festivus dinner is not in the cards this year for our Canadian family. But Canada’s consumers do have grievances to air, mainly about disappointing government officials. In the immortal words of Frank Costanza, “We got a lot of problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it.”

Federally, quite a few members of Parliament were particularly disappointing this year. Top of the list is federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, for his silly and misguided plastic ban, and his strange decision to label plastic products as “Schedule 1” toxins under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. All sorts of plastic products have kept us safe throughout the pandemic and they certainly aren’t toxic when properly disposed of. Banning items like plastic cutlery and takeout containers while we’re relying on them for our curbside pickups seems like the ultimate failure to read the room.

We got a lot of problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it

Frank Costanza

Next up, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault disappointed Canadian consumers when his office announced it would be implementing a Netflix tax and adding new regulations for the spirits-raising streaming service. Most of us have been camped at home for upwards of nine months, relying on the wonders of Wi-Fi to get us by. “Disappointing” isn’t nearly strong enough to describe how irritating this decision is for consumers.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau rounds out the list of Liberal MPs with whom consumers have serious grievances to air. Speaking of air, and airlines, it was a shame he took more than eight months to defend consumers against airline companies that refused to comply with the law and provide their passengers with refunds for cancelled flights.

Now, consumer disappointment isn’t a partisan affair. All parties are guilty, and in fact every single member of Parliament once again disappointed Canadian consumers when they voted unanimously to continue to support supply management in agriculture. It is little short of scandalous that our MPs — every one of them — continue to defend a system that artificially inflates prices for consumers, even driving some Canadians below the poverty line, all to provide a selective benefit for well-connected farmers. Conservative MPs are especially guilty: they’re supposedly the party of free trade and open markets.

Many of our provincial representatives were disappointing, as well. The premier of P.E.I. made the boneheaded decision to close liquor stores at the start of the pandemic, though he did have the good sense to reverse himself. Ontario Premier Doug Ford made some great consumer decisions, like legalizing alcohol delivery from restaurants. Unfortunately, his winning streak for doing right by consumers ended when, after first allowing cannabis retail deliveries, he then reversed that decision in favour of keeping a government delivery monopoly.

And, of course, we couldn’t conclude Festivus without airing our disappointment with government officials who failed to live by the rules they set for the rest of us. Our federal health minister urged Canadians not to travel but then flew home numerous times to visit family and even got photographed maskless at Pearson Airport. MPP Sam Oosterhoff made the silly mistake of joining an unmasked indoor group selfie, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau crossed provincial boundaries to visit family at Easter after warning Canadians to avoid family gatherings. “Rules for thee, but not for me” is always a bad look if you want Canadians to take those rules seriously.

With our grievances aired, Canadian consumers wish everyone a Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager with the Consumer Choice Center.

Originally published here.

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